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CRJ3014 Criminal Justice And The Media

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The Case of Natalee Holloway

Missing white woman syndrome (MWWS) is a term for how the media disproportionately gives excessive news coverage to missing white women and girls, as opposed to missing black women and girls. There is an inordinate amount of coverage on television, radio, and in the print media when a missing person case involves a young, attractive white woman or girl. The essential features of a missing person said to give rise to MWWS are sex, race or ethnicity, social class, attractiveness, and age. Not only minorities but even males are underrepresented. If the child is an attractive white girl, then her disappearance attracts more public interest.

Natalee Holloway, the TV movie based on the story of a teen who disappeared on May 30, 2005, in Aruba, became the highest-rated movie in the eleven-year history of the Lifetime Movie Network when it was telecast in April 2009, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The movie was based on Beth Holloway and Sunny Tillman's book, Loving Natalee: A Mother's Testament of Hope and Faith.

In 2005, Natalee Holloway vanished while on a trip to Aruba as a part of her senior class outing. Beth Holloway, Natalee's mother, captured the nation's attention by working tirelessly to solve the mystery that shattered her family's life. Today, Beth speaks publicly trying to make people aware of potential dangers in international travel.

Greta Van Susteren, the host of On the Record, covered the story almost daily and interviewed a total of fifty-six different people from June 2005 to July 2006. Beth was interviewed forty-one times, and forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden was interviewed seven times, although no body was ever recovered.


Create a report in Microsoft Word that addresses the following points:

  • Analyze whether the Natalee Holloway case validates the "missing white woman syndrome" theory.
  • Examine whether Beth Holloway use Natalee's disappearance as an opportunity to become a celebrity.
  • Analyze and explain whether it is ethical for the family to profit from a book and movie regarding the disappearance of their child.
  • Natalee was drinking excessively (the legal drinking age is eighteen in Aruba) according to witnesses and showed impaired judgment by getting into a car with three strangers, yet her mother continues to lecture nationwide on the dangers of international travel. Analyze and explain whether the media made a note of this inconsistency or not.
  • Provide an example of a missing person's case that did not receive nationwide attention and compare the case with Natalee's case. Describe the similarities and the differences of the two cases. Support your answer by using facts and statistics from other missing person's cases.
  • Provide a critique on the websites filled with Holloway family photos and photos of the real story. Did you find the information to be bias or slanted?
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